Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nature, God, and Suburban Disconnectedness

Living in the country for the past two years has afforded us some opportunities to interact with nature in ways that we never would have the opportunity for had we chosen to continue living in suburbia.
One such encounter was Thing #3 finding a rat snake yesterday:
This very non-venomous rat snake was warming himself about 10 feet from our car.
I was trying to get him (the boy, not the snake) to come to the garden with me while added stakes to support our pea plants. He just stood there squealing and pointing, to which I came over and almost stepped on the lil' critter (the snake, not the boy). As soon as I arrived, it stayed stone-still. After about a minute, he (the snake, not the boy) started slithering slowly away, recognizing our fascination and perceived that we were by no means a danger.
He was riveted (the boy, not the snake).
I snapped as many pics as I could, and even got the older two out to see.
We followed the snake's leisurely slither through the yard for a good 5, maybe 7 minutes. It eventually meandered over to a rocky area with some felled tress, where it finally disappeared.
The rat snake, stretched out on a rock before finally disappearing into the brush.
Based on the size of the rock alone, we pegged him (the snake, not the boy) at a good 4 feet, probably 4-and-a-half feet, long.
An experience like that just doesn't happen in the mechanized world of urban America.
Seeing a 4.5 foot snake prompts panic in the hearts of most people.
"It's too close to the house. It's dangerous. Keep the dog inside. Call animal control."
Wrong. It's a harmless rat snake, minding its own business while helping our cat keep the field mice at bay.
But when living a life detached from creation, it's easy to not see the raw beauty of the world.
Take this spiderweb I saw one morning while watering the sheep:
This dewy spiderweb is full of beauty, especially with thirsty sheep peeping through.
What a thing of beauty!
The water droplets, the grace, the elegance, the frailness despite the power. The mist rising in the background. The haunting web spun between two delicate blades of grass.
The immediate response of my former, suburban life would be to take a stick, "collect" the web in it, and toss the stick out of sight. After all, in suburbia, spiders are a threat, too. Their webs are sticky. They're creepy. The are about 10,000 times smaller, yet still elicit waves of panic from humans.
I admit it - I am sort of creeped out by spiders. If I see them in the house, I do eradicate them.
But what about outside? In suburbia, seeing a web in the back meant instant eradication.
In the country, not anymore.
I believe that the urban and even sub-urban lifestyles we have grown accustomed to in the last several decades have disconnected us from nature. We do not appreciate the entirety of creation (like snakes and spiders). Instead, we choose to only surround ourselves with that of nature that is comfortable.
What a sad, narrow view of the world.
God created such a rich bounty for us, and he reminds us his majesty in surprising ways (like a toddler trying to play with a rat snake) and at unexpected times (like groggy early-morning sheep water time).
The rural life affords me the opportunity to pause at these moments.
I can stop.
I can soak it in.
I can turn my thoughts toward God, and marvel at the rich tapestry of life, in all forms, that He has created.
Being away from the world of insect sprays, squirrel traps, and perfectly manicured, artificially-planted lawns has done me a world of good.
I am started to feel more and more connected to reality being surrounded by nature in the way that I am.
I barely noticed this little toad, but took the time to stop and marvel.
For example, this little toad would have totally escaped my field of vision three years ago.
First, I would never have looked down for wildlife in a suburban setting.
Second, my eyes were not sufficiently trained to notice.
Third, in my hastiness, I likely would have shooed him away, even to keep him safe from being trampled, but not stopped to wonder.
I do believe, more and more, that living in the city or the suburbs is disconnecting. It is an artificially-created environment that lends itself to being disconnected from the vastness and majesty of creation.
I also believe that removing oneself from creation removes oneself from the Creator.
Maybe the trend toward urbanization in Western society has something to with the trend toward non-religiousness in said society.
I certainly do perceive God's presence more in the surprises we find around the homestead. I also feel less like fighting and subduing nature and more like venerating and wondering in nature.
This in turn leads to an increased desire to venerate and wonder in He who created nature.
It's an interconnectedness that I have not experienced until very recently - i.e., moving away from the 'burbs.
It's reason to pause and ponder, at any rate.

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